To understand the unique experience of horseback riding and, let me explain you first a bit about the Icelandic horses, which are a native specie only grown in Iceland.
This breed is believed to have born from Scandinavian ponies between ninth and tenth century. Soon it got spread in some other parts of the world as Europa or South America. However they are the only horses allowed in Iceland.
Therefore the Icelandic authorities prohibited any other horse breed to enter the country. This restriction applied as well as the exported animals to come back to the country, to prevent diseases. Nowadays the horseback riding tours are exponentially growning in Iceland.
You might be thinking they don’t look like other horses. Well,their aspect is due to genetic and natural selection for centuries. Because of this natural selection, this horse is strong and it has only a few illnesses. It’s still used for agricultural work as well as horse races.Besides horseback riding, they are also used in contests and for cooking their meat.
The Icelandic horse, or íslenski hesturinn, has 5 gaits: pace, trot and gallop as all the rest but it also has two genuine from this breed: Tölt and Skeid or Flugskeið. When riding Tölt, the horseman barely moves. Locals say you can even have a cup of tea while riding as you won’t spill a drop. Flugskeið is a really fast move where the horse moves both legs on one side at the same time.
Once you know all this information about the Iceland horses, you might be willing to ride them! Let’s talk about all the choices available.
Most of the tours start in Reykjavik, which is really convenient as this city is often selected as headquarters during an Icelandic visit. You can find tours in group or private tours. It would depend on how many people are you on your party and also your budget. The tours start early in the morning and take about 6 to 9 hours, returning to Reykjavik in the evening –in case you have plenty of time, there are also excursions for 5 and 6 days available! If you are instead enjoying an express visit, don’t worry! There are also mini-tours of 3 hours during summer evenings that are really unique as you will experience the Midnight Sun.
The routes can be quite different depending on the company, but the most visited places are the Golden Circle, Lake Hafravatn, Thoromdsdale, Heiðmörk Nature Park… If you are not in Reykjavik, you can also meet them at the farm where the horses are.
There is a wide range of prices or this type of tours, but you need to be aware what’s also included on the price. For example, some companies include the lunch, but some others don’t. There are other excursions that include a second activity as for example enter the Blue Lagoon, whale watching or rafting.
Horseback Riding tours in Iceland – Icelandic Horses
You have to be aware that many companies have an age requirements for user. So usually children below 8 years old cannot ride themselves. Most companies require a minimum experience riding horses, but some other welcome beginners to join them.
Also keep in mind if you are an experience rider you need to respect some requrements. If you want to bring your own equipment, you will have to disinfect all of your riding clothes. And of course, before you come to Iceland. Be aware that used leather gear may not be brought into the country. If you don’t know how to disinfect your clothes, there are many resources. Remember, Icelandic horses are a species unique and we need to protect it, so these rules are really important!